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February 16, 2006

Hotel Workers Rising: THE Labor Story of 2006

It's starting now with a series of rallies in various cities, but contract negotiations in the hotel industry in cities across the country is likely to be the key labor story of 2006.

Why? Because the union representing the hotels, UNITE HERE, has spent the last few years to make 2006 a showdown in the industry. In the past, major cities negotiated their contracts in different years with little coordination. But in the last round of city negotiations, the union made sure that most contracts would expire at the same time this year.

Contracts for workers in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, Honolulu and Sa Francisco (some of whose hotels have been operating without a contract for two years) will all expire this year, with 60,000 workers at 400 hotels ready to walkout in the event that negotiations break down.

The key to the fight is that the hotel industry is not longer based on local ownership but is run by global corporations. Which on one hand means that the union needs to fight nationally and collectively to have the leverage to protect its wage and benefits.

But there is also an upside to this consolidation in the industry. By putting pressure on the hotels where the union still has strength, workers can leverage demands on behalf of non-union affiliates of these global companies. One of the prime goals is to demand that the hotels stop running abusive anti-union campaigns and agree to recognize the union in any hotel where a majority of workers sign cards asking to have a union, a procedure known as card check recognition.

Make no mistake. This is one of the most important union campaigns in decades, a union in a whole industry seeking to move from a defensive crouch in isolated cities to taking the offensive to take on corporations on a national scale and rebuild the union across the country.

You can read more about the campaign at Hotel Workers Rising. You can sign up to help the campaign here.

Posted by Nathan at February 16, 2006 07:37 AM